Día De Los Muertos: think it’s the Mexican version of Halloween? Think again. This unique holiday is really a day to honor, celebrate and reconnect with the deceased. Scholars trace this celebration back to an Aztec holiday honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl , who is the ruler of the underworld and the deceased (think Hades but far cooler because she co-rules the underworld with her dead hubby Mictlantecuhtli). Nowadays, Mexicans have fused this holiday with their Catholic traditions making for a completely unique celebration. Sugar skulls, altars, skeletons, marigolds… I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather celebrate the dead that way than dressing up as the female version of Robin Hood.
What’s great about The Day of the Dead is the teaching experience it offers: it’s relatively well known in the U.S. so as to be recognizable, but still enough of a mystery to be engaging. I would venture to guess that most kids don’t actually know what it’s about, where it came from, why it’s important and what we can learn from it.
Well, no more! For today’s WWW, I’ve included a great lesson plan created by a professor over at CalStateLA. Technically the lesson plan requires a full month, which works out because Día de Los Muertos is Nov. 1 and 2nd (… conveniently coinciding with Catholic All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day…). However, it’s an easy enough lesson plan to cut down if you don’t have a full month to devote to the deceased.
“This unit is designed with individual lesson plans that come together in a holistic way to integrate an overall understanding of the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos. The unit components are organized in a deductive teaching sequence, beginning with a general conceptual understanding of Mexico, followed by an exploration of the specific details, traditions and activities that take place in the holiday that will be analyzed in depth. This unit will include various lessons ranging from language arts, geography, history, literature reading, and visual arts. It will also incorporate the use of writing journals, where the students will be required to describe what they learn about throughout the course.” (From Dia de los Muertos teaching guide). I really like this journal idea, it gives kids a chance to engage with their thoughts, questions and feelings. Maybe you could put it together as a Día de los Muertos Classroom book at the end of the lesson!
This unit is comprehensive including suggestions for videos, books, activities and a grading rubric.
Keep up with the WWW posts for this month, they’ll all be about different Día de los Muertos teaching tools. Also, I know Katrina has posted some around Albuquerque activities here.
Bonus!: Did you know La Calavera Catrina (the iconic skeleton shown above) was originally created by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1910? Share that as your next cocktail ice breaker and people will give you the, “Wow! How the heck did you know that look?” Then you can send them here.
Visit the LAII’s website to view and download our complete thematic guide on Día de los Muertos.
Your Deceased Honorer,